The Miami Dolphins are facing allegations of ‘bullying’ within their locker room this week, following a lunchroom prank that led to one of its players having an ‘emotional breakdown’ and leaving the team.
The two time Super Bowl winning franchise has called for an NFL review following the sudden departure of Offensive Tackle Jonathan Martin, 24, from the team’s facilities last Monday. Martin became the victim of a lunchroom prank when his teammates stood up and moved away as soon as he sat down to eat with them. This subsequently resulted in the player smashing his tray and leaving the facility immediately. The 140kg lineman is expected to be placed on the non-injury football list in the next few days, meaning he is unlikely to return to the team this season.
It soon became obvious that the prank was not the sole reason for Martin’s outburst. Fox Sports reported that Martin had been subject to ‘persistent teasing and bullying’ since being drafted by the South Florida team in 2012 and he had even discussed the alleged abuse with Head Coach Joe Philbin during the spring.
In recent days, further allegations have emerged whereby Martin is said to have been forced by teammates to fund $15,000 towards a trip to Las Vegas which he didn’t even attend. The Offensive tackle has since filed formal allegations of player misconduct and given the league voicemails and text messages that could aid in the investigation.
On Sunday, Offensive Lineman Richie Incognito, 30, was suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins for conduct detrimental to the team. Incognito has been placed at the centre of the allegations, which he denies strenuously, and according to sources; he was the ‘ring leader’ of the abuse on Martin, despite being a member of Miami’s six player leadership council.
Transcripts from some of the voicemails Martin handed into the league show Incognito threatening Martin with profane language and racial slurs. As reported by ESPN, one of the messages left by Incognito for Martin back in the spring, states: "Hey, wassup, you half ****** piece of ****. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] **** in your ******* mouth. [I'm going to] slap your ******* mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. **** you, you're still a rookie. I'll kill you."
In a statement released by the Dolphins organisation, it stated: ‘We are taking these allegations very seriously and plan to review the matter further. We have also reached out to the NFL and asked them to conduct an objective and thorough review. As an organization, we are committed to a culture of team-first accountability and respect for one another’.
The fallout of the bullying scandal has unearthed other related issues within the Dolphins organisation. The Miami Herald reported on one player to be going broke due to the pressures of having to pay for veteran teammates and that the younger players are being 'used like an ATM'. Pictures on twitter also emerged over the weekend showing a dinner costing $30,000, being left to the rookies (first year players) of the team to pay for. Although the rookie dinner is an annual event for every NFL team, the pictures uploaded onto the social media site have come at a bad time for Miami following the bullying accusations.
The lengthy NFL review that will examine these revelations will not only aim to expose any bullying culture within the Dolphins locker room, but it may subsequently lead to the exposure of other similar incidents elsewhere in the league.